My reverse fundraising campaign for the Boston Marathon.

Over 10 years ago I spent a season as the running coaching for a Team in Training team. It was a great experience. I met a bunch of great individuals, many of those people accomplished their goal of running a 1/2 or full marathon and they raised money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Team in Training was the first highly scaled and successful fundraising program, which used endurance events as their tool.

Today, I’m excited to see the progress that the team at Moolathon is doing in that space.

When I decided to run the Boston Marathon in 2020, I knew I wanted to use it for something personally rewarding beyond my own running goals.

However I have a personal appreciation to start a fundraising campaign as social media is overwhelmed with different ways individuals are trying to raise money. Facebook has made every birthday a fundraising event.

This is when I decided do a reverse fundraising campaign.

What is a reverse fundraising campaign?

  • It is something I think I just made up?
  • Instead of soliciting donations, I am going ask for suggestions on who I should donate to.
  • Who will I give my money to?
    • I do not have any limitations right now. I will give to an organization that you suggest. I will give it directly to someone that has a need and could use the money. I will give it to you, if it makes sense.
  • What are the requirements?
    • We will need to be connected via a social media platform so we can communicate privately: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter
    • You will need to share a campaign link so I can make a donation  or you will need to have a cashapp account so I can send the funds directly.

What am I giving away?

  • Every Friday between now and the marathon (4/20/20), I will give $26.20

Why?

  • As noted, I wanted the Boston Marathon to be more than about my personal running goals.
  • I have been inspired by watching Bill Pulte use twitter to spread love and money.
  • Money is one of those things I have associated a scarcity mentality to. At times, I do ok, other times it becomes a major barrier for me. In 2019, I had a goal to monthly give money to two organizations, I did occasionally but not consistently. The growing desire to hoard and take is a current problem. As a small business entrepreneur, I’m often waiting for the next phase of stagnant growth or no revenue (or worse). It’s just how I am hard wired. Doing this is one way to change my own mindset and behavior. I realize that $26.20 is not going to change things, but hopefully it helps someone with their campaign, goes toward a pair of shoes for someone to exercise in, a healthy bag of fruit from the grocery or even a race entry for a local 5k? I will paraphrase Bill Pulte from his twitter account, I am simply one person, but together we can change everything.

 

 

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God and I had a talk about being rich on Hanson’s Point.

Last weekend my friend Tyson and I made our way to the Red River Gorge for our first camping trip of the year. I shared a little piece of that story last week in my post about Randomness. The trip was excellent, which has motivated us to spend the week thinking about how to get more camping and hiking in this year.

There was one experience I had that stands out above all the others. I shared that moment on Instagram. I was sitting on Hanson’s point taking in the view. In the moment, I was inspired to get out my Crossroads app and read the daily scripture.

For the majory of life, turning to God and scripture was a place of refuge when thinking through difficult decisions. That changed fairly significantly when I was around 33 years old. Maybe some day I will better understand that change and be comfortable writing about why it happened. At the moment, I have not been able to fully process it.

Despite this fact, I made the decision last fall to attend Crossroads. I started attending with a mindset in search of answers. I have sought guidance from various philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, buddhist teachings and self-help books. The realization was that I also wanted to find others who were willing to be open minded and in the process of seeking answers to life’s bigger questions. Crossroads has offered a non-judgmental place to do this.

That is a long story to explain why I had the Crossroads app on my phone. The view from Hanson’s point inspired me to read the scripture of the day. The reading was Proverbs 13.

The words that really stood out to me were from verses 7 and 8.

“One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

8 A person’s riches may ransom their life,
but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes.”

This message really grinds at my soul in a couple different ways. If you have read my writings over the past couple years, it may not be surprising that it relates to work and dating.

In the startup world, there is a somewhat unhealty relationship with “funds raised”. While I am not exposed to a lot of startup communities around the US, I have a fairly high exposure to the one in Lexington, Kentucky.

The topic of how to start a business and raising money was also a topic that Thomas and I aligned on in our early days, which ultimately made me comfortable partnering with him.

The position that we have taken is that raising money should be done in very specific situations. The act of ‘closing a round’ should not been seen as a successful outcome itself, but rather a tool that is being used to move forward towards a more admirable goal.

I think Gary Vee said it best when he shared a lesson from his dad that said, ‘When you borrow money, it’s the worst day of your life’.

When I see people celebrating raising funds, I am now going to think about Proverbs 13:7. Celebrating this event, in my mind, is a sign of someone who has nothing, yet pretends to be rich. This may not always be the case, as there are legitimate times for raising capital. However, I rarely have conversations with founders in that position.

In terms of dating, I will simply acknowledge that the desire to put out a perception of having more wealth than exists is incredibly high. The ease to access capital for consumer purchases is a little unnerving for me at times. This access has been tempting in several situations the past two years, as I’ve worked to become ‘fully free’.

My personal definition of being free is:

  • zero financial obligations to anyone else
  • ability to work on projects that I’m excited to work on (always thinking about impact and legacy)
  • have control over my time (no requirements of a 9 to 5)

I believe I am 80% of the way to this goal. I am still working to get to where I can be very choosy on the projects I decide to work on. I know deep in my gut, that if I succumbed to the desires to access cheap money and “pretend to be rich”, I’d push this progress down to nearly zero.

As verse 8 says:

“A person’s riches may ransom their life”.

My current interpretation of the verse is that if riches is what you value, then there are many things in life you say you value, but will end up forfeiting in favor of those “riches”. I am probably taking that verse completely out of context?

This is where the lyrics from the song Suit and Jacket from Judah and the Lion comes in:

“Cause everybody I know, everybody I know Is growing old,
is growing old too quickly
And I don’t wanna go
So how am I supposed to slow it down so I can figure out who I am?
And I ain’t trading my dreams for no 401k
And I ain’t giving this fire for a cold, cold heart
So don’t say I’m getting colder
Cause I’ll say it when I do”

As I turn 40 this year, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the expectations I have had for my life. I expect a lot out of myself. When I moved to Kentucky, at 23 years old, I had ideas of what 30, 35 and 40 would look like.

The two lines from the song that I hear myself thinking about daily are:

“So how am I supposed to slow it down so I can figure out who I am?
And I ain’t trading my dreams for no 401k “

If my definition of having freedom is having the ability to pursue projects and work that I want to be a part of my legacy and that creates impact, then I can look back on the past 17 years with a great sense of accomplishment. I have been fortunate to have had different opportunities to direct energy into my personal mission statements. This has been true in different settings with various co-workers, multiple business partners and individually.

However, it comes at the “expesnse” of not having 401ks, pensions, guaranteed paychecks or at times health insurance. The instability of this lifestyle is one that any entreprenuer understands, but many people find undesirable or even foolish.

The ending:

There is no doubt I spend my days chasing “success”. That success is in terms of personal impact, but also financial gain.

The world in which we live makes money a clear way of keeping score, making it difficult to not be tied to it in some way.

This entire post can be distilled down into this question, which I ask myself some version of often:

“How can I be successful and create impact, all the while remain free from getting caught up in easy attempts at appearing ‘rich’?”

When I cross check that desire with the expectations I had for myself, I get discouraged.

A friend told me this week,

“If you are going to trust God for the process, then you also have to trust him on the outcome.”

To be completely real, I am not at a place I trust God with the process. I am definitely not ready to trust him for the outcomes.

What I do know is that we started a conversation on Hanson’ Point last Saturday. He apparently had a lot to say. At the moment, I am trying to be a good listener. We will see where things go from here.

Having a vision for the future: What is your stretch goal?

When I work with individuals, we always start with the small habits that can be easily implemented. I was not an easy convert to this process when I first learned of starting with a “tiny habit” through BJ Fogg’s research. In my mind, it seemed like the tiny habit would be too small and uninspired to keep someone motivated. One of the standard examples used when describing the tiny habit process, is that a person should develop the habit of flossing by flossing just one tooth. That practice will then develop into a habit where you are flossing all your teeth daily. The skepticism I had was that a person would often choose to not practice the simple habit, such as flossing the single tooth, because it alone has no value.

The research continues to show that starting small is the best way to develop new and healthy behaviors. I have enough experience at this point that I am convinced that if you truly desire to have long lasting change, this is the approach you should take. This is the entire reason for the instructions in the article, “Knowing is not doing”.

This fact does not mean that there is no value in understanding what the final outcome looks like. This end goal is defined differently in different situations. In the book, “Smarter, Faster, Better” by Charles Duhigg, he calls it your stretch goal. When I talk to individuals, I like to use the term ‘vision’. I like using that term because it gives me a feeling of inspiration. This is also the outcome that many people have in mind when they start a new program to become happier and healthier.

One lesson I took away from Duhigg’s book is that when you set your stretch goal, you should define something that seems a little unrealistic today. This advice is a little nuanced because there is a fine line between something that is unrealistic today and something that is completely impossible. The reward that comes with setting stretch goals that feel slightly out of reach, is that when you successfully implement the daily habits and practices, they will gradually make what once seemed unrealistic a very real possibility.

Here are some examples of stretch goals related to being happier and healthier, along with one daily habit that could be the first step to making the vision come true:

Stretch goal:  To be 50 pounds lighter.
Daily habit: Put on walking shoes and walk around the block.

Stretch goal: To manage work stress better.
Daily habit: Set a pomodoro timer and walk for 1 minute each cycle.

Stretch goal: To run a 5k with family at Thanksgiving.
Daily habit: Put on running clothes, run to end of block.

Stretch goal: To get out of chair without knee pain or support.
Daily habit: Set alarm on phone, do 5 body squats to comfortable depth each time it goes off.

Stretch goal: To have less frustration and more positive mindset.
Daily habit: Set alarm for 3pm each day, when alarm goes off acknowledge 1 thing you are grateful for that day.

When you are working hard to develop a new lifestyle, it is important to be committed to the daily process. However, to remain inspired and achieve outcomes that seem unrealistic today, it is valuable to have a vision for what the future looks like.

Challenge yourself: The secret to living fully as we age, along with 10 things you can try today.

I decided to go climb Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) in Custer State Park yesterday. It was a chance to celebrate the 39 years that I have been alive. An opportunity to exert some physical energy and be grateful for the health that I possess today. It was also a way to challenge myself.

One of my heroes is Susan Bradley-Cox. I am consistently inspired by her ability to help people achieve goals through the Team in Training program. I have been fortunate to coach alongside her on a couple occasions, as I help the triathletes improve their running. While I am inspired by her coaching, I am even more inspired by her desire to continually challenge herself. When I interviewed her for the Active Lexington podcast, one of the questions that I asked was what she attributed her ability to keep going, as she aged. The answer that stuck out to me was her acknowledgement that continually learning and seeking new challenges was a big factor in going strong long into her 70’s.

When I pulled into Sylvan Lake to start my hike, I anticipated a small crowd. It is after Labor Day, so many students and parents are back in school. What I found was a decent number of cars at the trailhead. My first reaction was, “Don’t worry, it is probably some of the retired folks walking around the lake.”

As I headed up trail #9, I started with a husband and wife couple, but quickly found solitude as they stopped to make equipment changes. In the loneliness of hiking, on a new trail and in a part of the country you don’t know well, I began to become lost in my thoughts. Many of those thoughts were on the environment around me. The wildfires were burning strong, the air was smokey and the sun was partially covered. Small noises off the trail made me consider the possibility of rattle snakes. I had growing anxiety over the stories locals shared of mountain lions (my absolute most feared animal). Thankfully, after an hour, those thoughts started to ease and I began to appreciate the landscape and scenery a little more.

I do not share this story to give every detail of my trip, but who I ended up sharing the adventure with. As I made my way up towards the 7,244 foot peak, the trail became more populated. It appeared that many of those cars at the trailhead had passengers that did make their way up trail #9. They just started earlier in the day and had reached higher ground. What were some defining characteristics of my fellow adventurers? Other than a group of 8th graders from Wisconsin and a young couple carrying two infants, they were individuals in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Most of them were traveling with at least one partner, but many were in small groups of three to five. And from my observation, everyone I saw yesterday was successful in reaching the fire tower at the top of the peak.

Choosing to take a different and hopefully less travelled route back down, I headed down trail #3 towards Little Devils Tower. About half way down, I came across a team of three ladies, most likely in their late 60’s or early 70’s. While I don’t know what they were up to, I’m pretty sure they were looking watch out as each member figured out how to use nature’s facilities.

As I climbed up Little Devils Tower, the trail became less of a trail and more of a rock scramble. At one point, I came to an opening to scramble up, where a lady was standing. I quickly realized she spoke French and didn’t understand English very well. I moved on through the opening and up through several other scrambles that were moderately difficult ad created some anxiety. At the top of the climb, I found the rest of the French party. Each one was moving around the rocks with grace and confidence. Each one could have easily been my elder by 30 years.

Yesterday, I climbed to the top of Black Elk Peak and I was inspired. The inspiration came from a place that I didn’t expect. I expected to be inspired by the scenery and beauty of Custer State Park. That was definitely worth the effort and time. However, the people I met along the journey is what I will take away as inspiration. A large number of people willing to challenge themselves. To do something that allows them to continue living fully.

Ten things you can do challenge yourself today:

1. Start to learn a new language using Duolingo

2. Pick a 5k to sign up and train for

3. Learn (or relearn) how to skip or jump rope

4. Do a set of push ups

5. Find a crossword puzzle, sudoku or log onto luminosity and complete one exercise

6. Learn to do a kettle bell swing

7. Do a set of jumping jacks

8. Find an open space and do some summersaults

9. Go to a climbing wall and pay an instructor to teach you how to climb

10. Go for a walk in nature with no phone, music, wifi or cell service

Knowing is not doing: 4 keys to making sure you are actually making progress.

When you want to make a change in your habits, it is common for people to start researching all the different options to make that change. They will find products that say they can help, they will find experts whose methods are the best and all the activity starts to feel pretty good. The research is movement. The studying is progress. Or, that is how it feels. The reality is that many people never make it past the research phase.

Knowing is not doing.

The question you could be asking is..

How do I actually make the significant change in my life?

That is the right question to ask. The answer that I share with people is that they need to:

  • start today
  • start with something uncomplicated
  • set their first milestones close enough that they can evaluate their progress today
  • make the change so easy that they are guaranteed to succeed

Start today. Planning is not doing.

If you do not start today, when will you start? On Monday, so that you can kick off a fresh week. Next month, when things have settled down and you have more time. After the kids go back to school, when you have the ability to take a little more time for yourself? Those are all good times to start your journey, but they are not today. And today is the best opportunity you have.

There should be no reason that you can not start today. I will remove some of the things you believe are obstacles in the way.

Avoid complexity.

The reason that complex planning should be avoided when you start is because you end up a with plan that a normal person, with a normal lifestyle can not implement. It is much better to start very simple and get positive momentum. As you start to implement the change, you can learn and adjust in real time. Testing small changes and iterating is a management process taken from the software development world and works well when trying to make a personal change.

After you have been working at implementing the change for a short period of time, learn from the experience, adjust the plan and then carry on. The real value is that you will be making decisions based on real data and experience and not on theories and random testimonials of strangers.

It doesn’t take too many cycles before you have a new way of living that seems like it took a lot of hard work and planning. The reality is that it likely did take some hard work, but you spent your effort on creating change and momentum, while many others with the same goal are still planning on the best way to do it.

Create short feedback loops.

When you get started, don’t set your first evaluation period a month away. You need to have tighter feedback loops that enable you to better understand how your behavior is impacting your progress towards success. When you set milestones to far away, it becomes too easy to explain away the lack of progress to all the other things that happened during that period.

I recommend you have daily milestones. Weekly milestones would be the largest acceptable duration, however in those instances it would have to be done with behavioral metrics that do not lend themselves to a shorter duration.

Guarantee your success.

In order to be successful over a long period of time, set yourself up for guaranteed success in the short term. When you find success with your outcome metrics early, you will start to build:

  • Self confidence
  • A new sense of identity
  • Self efficacy
  • Motivation

Changes in all four of those are critical to becoming a healthier and happier person. The truth is that we all have a certain amount of resilience and capacity to self motivate. This capacity is often not sufficient to overcome consistent failure when you begin and finding consistent and recurring sources of external motivation can be difficult.

The better alternative is to create a goal for change that is nearly impossible to fail at. When I share this concept with individuals, I can often be faced with skepticism, because the goal might seem trivial. However, once they’ve steadily and progressively found success at these small changes, they begin to realize that they’ve started to develop a new lifestyle.

If you need one take away message from this article, it would be – start today. Go find the most simple and easy to execute activity you can, and go do it today. Then repeat.

Grandma’s Marathon, Checking the Minnesota box

I made it to Duluth for Grandma’s Marathon yesterday, but to be honest, I was trying to find a reason all week to back out of going. I came up with many reasons. It’s been a long time since I fully trained up for a marathon “properly” (2010 New Orleans being the last), however I often find myself at the start line of races, knowing I need to make some progress towards my 50 States goal.

This often means that I sign up for a small race at the last minute and go get it done. Grandmas was a little different because in a moment of inspiration back in February, I signed up, know that a couple friends would also be going.

I want to thank Tim and Paul for that inspiration this winter, because I wouldn’t have made my way to Duluth if it were not for them. I’ve been wanting to do Grandmas for 15 years and never committed, so I’m happy to have run it. However, I’ll need to go back again so I can experience northern Minnesota for a longer stay. I also got to meet some of Paul’s friends and teammates from the Twin Cities Running Company. When you run a race with others, you almost always have a shared friendship for life.

So.. despite apprehension, I’m very glad I came.

Running the Race.

I knew that my fitness was pretty good, however my total mileage has been lacking. Thus, I wasn’t sure what would happen after 17 or 18 miles. To manage my expectations and control my effort early in the race, I set the following goals for myself:

  1. Make the start line
  2. Finish the race and check off Minnesota
  3. Make my 6th 5k my fastest 5k
  4. Make my 1st 5k my slowest 5k

I thought that if everything went well, I could go under 3:30. If everything went really well, I could run about a 7:45 pace.

The outcome:

I accomplished goals: 1, 2, 3 but I just missed goal 4. Here are those splits:

First 5k: 25:20
Sixth 5k: 22:14
Last 5k: 25:27

I’m happy to report that my first mile was my slowest mile of the day, but my mistake was running mile two a little too quickly. That being said, I did meet my other goals and negative split the marathon, running the second half faster than the first half, despite holding on to a very fine thread the last 4 miles.

Reflection:

While it is really hard to run 3:23 and be “satisfied”, I’m heading home fairly positive about the marathon. It’s probably the best paced marathon I’ve had in a very long time and I pull every ounce of fitness out of my body on the day. But other runners will understand when I say, it’s hard to be happy when you know there’s more out there for you and you are not reaching your potential.

By far the best part of the weekend was hanging out with all the others at the Denny cabin. It’s those opportunities that make being a runner and taking these crazy trips worth it!

Link to Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1042432942